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BYU Devotional: Wrestling with comparisons

J.B. Haws, associate professor of church history and doctrine, delivered the Devotional address Tuesday in the Joseph Smith Building auditorium. Professor Haws spoke on ways we can combat the dangers of comparison and gave compelling examples of looking outward rather than focusing on ourselves.

Haws began his address by telling the story of the inadequacy he felt when asked to give the devotional. He thought of how good past devotionals had been and wasn’t sure he could measure up. He began to wonder what he could even talk about.

“In a flash of recognition, I was suddenly pulled up short. There it was. That was it. I needed to spend some time wrestling to the ground this vexatious tendency to compare,” he said.

Comparison comes so naturally to us, like it did when Haws compared himself to other devotional speakers. It is easy to look around and think that we are not where or who God wants us to be.

Haws said, “I feel this with the force of truth: our perfect, loving God makes no horizontal comparisons… He only compares Peter with old Peter, with former Peter – and He only compares me with old me.”

Devotional Highlights: Wrestling with Comparisons | J.B. Haws

To address this, Haws said we first need to be mindful and confront our tendency to compare. Comparison can breed arrogance, disdain, contempt, despair, hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness and shame. These comparisons are not fair to ourselves or those around us.

“We can notice how false these comparisons most often are – that is, they are based often on falsehoods, on faulty premises, both on others’ making and our own making. That’s worth noting, worth confronting, worth constantly reminding ourselves,” he said.

Haws said that we will all have the weakness of being mortal. That shortcoming is universal. When we realize this, we can trust in the Lord and his ability to make weak things strong.

“I realize, again and again, that I cannot overcome this on my own. I realize, again and again, that I do not have to,” he said.

Haws told a story about his two oldest sons, Parley and Marshall. They were playing catch in the backyard. Parley was older and caught the ball more often than Marshall did. Marshall cheered, jumped up and down, squealed in delight every time his older brother caught the ball – not discouraged by his own misses. He knew the contest was not with Parley and could therefore be excited every time his brother caught the ball.

Haws used the story to illustrate how we can recapture the celebration for the good fortune of others. We can do this by following Christ’s example of pure love and by thinking less about ourselves. We can share our skills in sports, school, music and more and “join in the joy that these expressions of talent and hard work will bring to others.”

“This is about not worrying about how brightly our light shines in comparison with the person right next to us,” said Haws.

Haws concluded by pointing out that we all fail, but we can’t let the temptation to compare our failures to others’ successes have power over us. The comparisons are false and do not measure what is really important. He said that when disappointments hit, we should take a deep breath and remember what really matters. “All things work together for the good of them that love God.”

“So, let’s all find a mirror; let’s look at ourselves; let’s see as we are seen; let’s repeat, ‘My contest is not with anyone else; my contest is with myself. The race is against sin, not against each other.’… And then [let’s] walk out the door, forget ourselves and start concentrating on others.”

Next Week’s Forum:

The next forum will be held on Tuesday, May 14, at 11:05 a.m., in the de Jong Concert Hall. Gary Burlingame, professor and department chair of psychology, will deliver this forum address.

His remarks will not be broadcast.

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